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The Impact of the Covid-19 Offseason for Undrafted Rookies

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Every NFL offseason is different from one another. Of course, the pandemic we’re currently in makes this offseason one of the most complicated in history. This year’s draft was different than any other. There are some key free agents are still on the market due to the situation we’re currently in. Typically, each team goes through training camp, practices, and four preseason games before cuts occur. This year though, there are no preseason games. While this doesn’t affect the starters, it drastically affects rookies and bottom-tier players on the roster, especially undrafted free agents.

For week one of the 2019 season, over 30 percent of the players on the 53-man rosters were undrafted. The most notable undrafted free agent to make a huge impact their rookie year was Bronco running back, Phillip Lindsay. Lindsay has posted over 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two seasons for Denver and has been a stable of the run-game that welcomes in Melvin Gordon. As a Packer fan, it’s impressive to see that 15 of the 53 players that made the 53 man roster at the start of week one were undrafted free agents, and that’s not including Allen Lazard who started last year on the practice squad. Now, Lazard figures to be the number two receiver and another undrafted free agent, Chandon Sullivan will be the starter in the slot.

Of course, this offseason was unlike any other. Instead of a rookie minicamp and tons of practices, followed by four preseason games, the rookies just get training camp and practice. Yes, the players still get to show off in front of the coaching staff, but it’s against the same players they’ve played opposite of the whole offseason. Preseason was great for coaches to watch some of the players on the roster bubble as they worked against players from opposing teams and how they reacted to differing schemes.

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Similarly, if you’re trying to have a battle for a starting spot or a situational role, the preseason put great emphasis on that. Another instance of the preseason is that it also gives other teams tape on players, which now goes out the window. Even if players were cut, other teams could pick them up. Now, those undrafted players have less of an opportunity to shine.

Many thought the NFL would allow teams to carry more than the usual 53 players on each roster, but that didn’t happen. With the usual 53 on the roster, it will be difficult for late-round and undrafted free agents to make the roster. Fortunately for those undrafted players though, the NFL has opted to go with a 15-man practice squad for this year to accommodate the virus. Even if some players don’t make the roster this year, they have a chance to stick around on the practice squad for a year to be brought up at some point this year, or stick around on the practice squad for a year and fight for a roster spot next year when things are back to normal per se.

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Below I have listed several undrafted free agents from this year’s draft that have a chance to stick around and make their team’s 53-man roster.

Falcons Tight End, Jared Pinkney

Ravens Tight End, Jacob Breeland

Bills Offensive Lineman, Trey Adams

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Panthers Receiver, Omar Bayless and Linebacker, Chris Orr

Bengals Linebacker, Marcel Spears Jr.

Browns Cornerback, A.J. Green

Cowboys Receiver, Stephen Guidry

Broncos Cornerback, Essang Bassey

Lions Tight End, Hunter Bryant

Packers Receiver, Darrell Stewart, Edge Rusher, Tipa Galeai, and Cornerback Stanford Samuels

Jaguars Running Backs, Tavien Feaster and James Robinson, and Safety, J.R. Reed

Chiefs Receiver, Kalija Lipscomb and Tackle, Yasir Durant

Rams Receiver, Trishton Jackson

Vikings Receiver, Quartney Davis

Saints Tackle, Calvin Throckmorton

Giants Running Back, Javon Leake and Receiver, Binjimen Victor

Jets Edge Rusher, Bryce Huff and Cornerbacks, Javelin Guidry and Lamar Jackson

Eagles Running Backs, Michael Warren and Adrian Killins

49ers Running Back, JaMycal Hasty and Cornerback, DeMarkus Acy

Buccaneers Cornerback, Parnell Motley

Redskins Tight End, Thaddeus Moss

Of course, tons of other undrafted players could shine in practice this year or be on the rosters due to injuries. This year is like no other and the rookies have had to redirect attention to different things. Undrafted free agents take a big hit and there could be a lot of rosters with little turnover from last year as a result of the unknown in some rookies. No preseason games may have seemed like the perfect idea to veterans. To some players on the roster bubble, specifically undrafted free agents, it could have cost them a chance at a roster spot.

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